Dementia and the Facts About It

A foremost delusion in mental health today is that dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and insanity mean roughly the same thing. The facts show otherwise. Alzheimer’s disease is a definite form of dementia, which is a term meaning “progressive brain dysfunction.” Dementia involves a loss of mental abilities that can eventually lead to a limitation of common activities. However, just because a person is experiencing symptoms of dementia, or even has some diagnosed form of dementia, does not mean they are insane.

In fact, the term of insanity is a very broad and careless one that could imply something from mental derangement, to willful foolishness, to psychopathic thinking. It’s important in discussing mental illnesses and medical conditions to get only the facts, so as not to spread more misinformation. Alzheimer’s and dementia – is there a difference between them?

Symptoms of dementia are not diagnosed the same as psychosis or delirium. Psychosis is a distorted sense of reality, while delirium involves brief states of mental confusion strongly associated with hallucinations. Forms of ruthless depression and even mental retardation have also been wrongly associated with dementia. Mental retardation involves impaired intellectual ability, a conditioning stemming back from a person’s childhood. Depression is defined by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a hopeless lack of activity.

Dementia, on the other hand, is closely related to changes in brain function that affect a person’s memory, individuality and behavior. These changes are severe enough to affect a person’s ability to interact socially and carry out daily routines.

What are the dementia symptoms? Absent-mindedness and disorder are two very prevalent associations with the condition. In earlier times, these signs used to be considered part of the aging process and dementia was put together with senility. Today, however, dementia is recognized as an abnormal state, not an ordinary part of the aging process.

There are also other and more serious symptoms than just forgetfulness and confusion. These could include: a person repeatedly asking the same question, having unusual difficulty in following directions, problems keeping track of time, people or locations, stable loss of memory or confusion about familiar surroundings, changes in personality and neglect of personal care. Sufferers of dementia may also demonstrate more physical symptoms. Obvious problems in a person’s speech and language could be observed. They may be unable to carry out certain physical functions even though their body members still work. (For example, being able to walk but not climb steps) In addition, other mental impairments may be observed such as an inability to identify objects, organize simple activities, or think abstractly.

It is also important to note that these are all symptoms of dementia, or possibly Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, just because a person exhibits one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean the person will be diagnosed as a dementia patient. Some people have had problems with forgetfulness or confusion but were not diagnosed as having any brain dysfunction. Others may have had some form of dementia, which thanks to a quick diagnosis and prompt treatment, was found to be reversible. It is even possible that some slight symptoms could be indicative of the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

It is true that in some cases dementia can lead to delirium or psychosis. But they are different diagnoses and many cases will see patients suffering only from dementia. The term “demented” is sometimes used to describe Alzheimer’s patients, or another type of dementia patient. Expressions can be found in various medical articles referring to patients as “moderately demented” or “severely demented.” Caution would be urged in using the word “demented” by its purest definition, which is sometimes quoted as “affected with madness or insanity.” Just like the common term of insanity, careless use of the word can actually lead to more misconceptions about the reality of mental illness. Even in the medical context, a person just exhibiting symptoms of dementia would not necessarily be demented, and a person classified as “severely demented” may not be experiencing any delirium or psychosis.

Accurate and comprehensive facts about mental health are the best kind to distribute. It is important for the diagnosed patient, family members and caregivers, as well as the common public, to understand the particular differences—to get the facts—so as to better manage with the problem.

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